EU expects to govern Northern Irish trade after Brexit unless London finds solution fast
The European Union on Wednesday laid out how it expected to regulate Northern Ireland’s trade if no better solution was found in the rapidly shrinking window before Britain quits the EU, prompting furious reactions in London and Belfast, Reuters reported.
Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier, presenting the EU’s draft of an exit treaty, denied that the proposal, intended to avoid a disruptive EU-UK “hard border” on the island of Ireland, would loosen Northern Ireland’s constitutional ties to the rest of the United Kingdom.
But British leader Theresa May told her parliament that no prime minister could ever agree to these terms, which would “threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK”.
The hardline Unionist allies in Belfast on whom she relies for a slim majority denounced them as “constitutionally unacceptable” and “economically catastrophic” as they would distance Northern Ireland from mainland Britain.
Establishing a “common regulatory area” with Ireland and 26 other EU states, as the draft treaty proposes, would in effect put the British province in a customs union with the bloc.
“Northern Ireland shall be considered to be part of the customs territory of the Union,” the draft read.
Barnier said Britons should not be surprised by a text that merely translated an interim accord with London into legal language.
And he said the border proposal was only a “backstop” solution, which could be changed if Britain offered alternatives along the lines of those it hinted at during talks in December.